Dr B R Ambedkar’s 130th birth anniversary is being celebrated today. The architect of the Constitution also did outstanding work in shaping the power sector in India. As minister in the Viceroy’s Cabinet (1942-1946), he handled portfolios of labour, water resources departments and power.In his thoughts on agriculture in ‘Small Holdings in India and Their Remedies’ (1917) and ‘States and Minorities’ (1947), he stated holding of lands by a few people was an acute problem. He suggested collective farming, economic holding of land or its equal distribution, industrialization, provision of credit, water, seeds and fertilizers by government, cultivation of wastelands by allotting wastelands to landless labour, minimum wages to labourers, control and regulation of private lenders.
Abolition of the ‘Khoti’ system (1949) ‘Mahar Vatan’ (1959) and introduction of Bombay Money Lenders’ Bill (1938) stand out as success stories of Dr Ambedkar’s movement.
Agricultural growth rate is now not only stagnant but indicates declining trends. The government has concentrated on technical problems and ignored institutional ones. Distribution of land ownership is the obstacle. There is a need to take measures on the basis of Dr Ambedkar’s thoughts.
Dr Ambedkar propounds the concept of state socialism. With abolition of intermediaries, the State must be owner of land. It should distribute lands to farms. Farmers should cultivate collectively. The State should supply essential capital to agri sector, and income thus obtained must be distributed among farmers. In Dr Ambedkar’s view, capital arises from savings and that is possible where there is surplus. No surplus is possible in India because in spite of the vastness of land under cultivation, a large agri population with the lowest proportion of land in actual cultivation meant this part remained idle. This creates pressure on land.
The government must adopt co-operative agriculture to increase size of holdings. Following Dr Ambedkar’s footprints, I am trying to provide the cheapest power to consumers. By making sparing use of resources, with modern tools and by bringing in transparency in governance and taking all stakeholders into confidence, I would be successful. My priority has been to provide adequate quality power to all, including the agri sector, in daytime. MahaDiscom provides power to more than 42 lakh agri consumers.
Our department recently formulated the Renewable Energy Policy 2020 through which farmers would be given adequate green power in daytime. For this, solar pumps at the rate of 1 lakh per annum would be provided.
Secondly, after 2018 (BJP regime) there was no scheme to provide power to farmers. The department has recently notified Agriculture Policy 2020 under which lakhs would be provided power. Thirdly, relief to agri consumers is given by writing off DPC (delayed payment charges), interest and reducing outstanding power bills to the extent of 66% on paying current bills.
To reduce tariff burden, the department has undertaken initiatives like monetisation of assets like lands, lines, managing coal and ash handling plants efficiently, generation of surplus from ash, cost cutting etc. Such efforts would lead to overall reduction in tariffs. I am also reviewing performance of subsidiaries. The first initiative would be to revamp MoAs and AoAs of MSEB Holding Co Ltd (MSEBHCL) and its subsidiaries. Also, I am thinking of dividing Asia’s second largest MahaDiscom into regional distribution companies. This would be done in consultation with all stakeholders.
(Nitin Raut is minister for energy in the MVA government)